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A free 10-day light festival will illuminate Salford Quays this winter

A trail of illuminated installations will animate and transform the surroundings to bring light and positivity to the cold, dark evenings

Launching this weekend, Lightwaves will return to Salford Quays with its most ambitious line-up to date.

Presented across MediaCityUK and Salford Quays, Lightwaves attracts thousands of visitors across the free 10 day festival, to explore a trail of illuminated installations that will animate and transform the surroundings.

With a focus on bold new commissions, the festival supports international artists alongside local and emerging talent.

This year’s spectacular commissions come with messages of protecting the planet and building a sustainable future.

The centrepiece of the festival for 2021 is Floating Earth by Luke Jerram, an awe-inspiring artwork which lets visitors see our planet floating on the surface of the water in three dimension.

Photo: Jim Huntsman

Measuring ten metres in diameter and created from 1200dpi detailed NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface, Luke has created this brand-new work to give visitors a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.

Floating Earth will undoubtedly be taking over Instagram feeds across the start of December, as people set out to view the incredible spectacle.

Celebrating a UK premiere in partnership with Submerge, Cygnus by Loomaland is a mesmerising water ballet that features twelve synchronised, glowing robot swans.

The magical birds are illuminated from the inside, gliding on the surface like ghosts and changing colours to the rhythm of the music that is coming from within their bodies.

Over in Mariner’s Canal, Sirens by Davy and Kristin McGuire is a beautiful but haunting display of water-based projections, featuring life-like mermaids and sea creatures as they encounter the devastating effects of plastic pollution and climate change. 

Photo: Laura Done

Taking influence from the Manchester bee, Hive Minds is an interactive arch of light created by Backstage Academy students working alongside multimedia artist Aphra Shemza.

This powerful artwork is centred around themes of unity and sustainability.

The 3D printed sculpture is sustainably sourced, and the materials will be reused and recycled.

The aim of the piece is to reflect on what humans can achieve when they come together as a hive in the face of the climate crisis.

Bringing people together into a fun and spontaneous music making experience, Illumaphonium by Michael and Gemma Davis is made up of more than 150 hand tuned and illuminated chime bars, each of which respond to touch with ever changing patterns of light and sound, spreading out like waves over the giant instrument’s surface. 

Mystery Bird has been developed as a static installation especially for Lightwaves 2021 as a collaboration of five unique artists.

Moths At Work by Pif-Paf will make a special appearance for the launch weekend with a joyful and highly mobile Physical Street Theatre interaction.

Ray and Flash, two brave Disco Moth Electricians, are sent down from the Moon in the Sky to collect moments of fun, pride and silliness to beam back home.

Nestled in MediaCityUK gardens will be a small meadow of oversized robotic flowers entitled Digital Playground, by Studio Little Lost Robot.

As visitors move around the sculpture the flowers’ appearance subtly changes according to movements made.

This oasis aims to passively remind spectators all to take it slowly and breathe. 

A permanent artwork at Media City, Through No.4 by Liz West consists of a six-metre long triangular corridor of light and colour.

The walk-through structure encourages visitors to look at their surroundings in a different light.

This will be amplified and exaggerated during Lightwaves through the use of elegant artificial lighting, turning the multicoloured artwork into a ‘jewel’ in the dark.

Animating the waterways at Salford Quays is Youth Culture by Stanza, a sculpture which challenges our assumptions about social alienation.

Entwined Light by Antoniya Soitsova and Nicolo Bencini tells the story of the ever-evolving relationship between the artificial and the natural, through the transitional interplay of form and light. 

Immersive laser projection, Lasertonic by Flora Litchfield utilises sound and colour to transform its surroundings into a meditative environment.

The colourful, undulating laser light dances in time with the surround sound, creating a serene environment to engage the subconscious mind and imagination.

Lightwaves is free for visitors to attend and aims to bring light and positivity to the cold, dark evenings.

Open to everyone, the artworks are fun, interactive and not only inspiring to look at, but thought provoking, too.

There are no tickets required to attend Lightwaves, visitors can simply turn up and walk the festival at their own leisure.

This year Quays Culture will also launch a free mobile app to help visitors navigate their way around the route. 

Lightwaves launches on Friday 3rd December alongside festive makers markets at Quayside. Find out more at

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